February 23, 2023

Beef cow numbers decline

Beef cow numbers decline

By: Sydney Sheffield

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has released the latest cattle inventory report. According to the report, cattle inventories totaled 89.27 million head, a 3% decline year over year. This is the smallest herd size for January 1st in 61 years.

To obtain an accurate measurement of the current state of the U.S. cattle industry, NASS surveyed approximately 35,400 operators across the nation during the first half of January. Surveyed producers were asked to report their cattle inventories as of January 1, 2023, and calf crops for the entire year of 2022 by internet, mail, telephone, or in-person interview.

After sending 13.1% more beef cows to slaughter last year, the January 1st inventory of beef cows was 28.9 million, down 4% from a year ago and matched the consensus that the beef cow number would decline by a million head or more. The actual number was a decline of 1.065 million head.

Other key findings in the report were:

  • Of the 89.3 million head inventory, all cows and heifers that have calved totaled 38.3 million

  • There are 28.9 million beef cows in the United States as of Jan. 1, 2023, down 4% from last year

  • The number of milk cows in the United States increased to 9.40 million

  • U.S. calf crop was estimated at 34.5 million head, down 2% from 2021

  • All cattle on feed were at 14.2 million head, down 4% from 2022

 A combination of dry weather, higher input costs, and high cull cow prices resulted in an 11% increase in beef cow slaughter during 2022. Experts suspect drought has played a huge role in the reduction of herds across the country, with Oklahoma showing the largest total inventory decline among top cattle states with an 11% decline. Oklahoma also experienced a 7% decline in beef cow inventories, which, along with Kansas, represents the largest percentage of cow herd decline.

Read the report here.